[Book] China: From Permanent Revolution to Counter-Revolution

The Unexpectedly Short Life of the New Democracy

11.1 Introduction

For Marxists the Chinese Revolution is second only to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 as one of the greatest events in human history. In 1949 the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) took power and within a short span of time snuffed out capitalism and landlordism.

However, Mao talked the language of bourgeois democracy, and on assuming power had the PLA stamp on any signs of independent activity by the workers. But the bourgoisie had fled en masse with Chiang Kai-shek, and to maintain his perspective, Mao was forced to form a united front with rag tag remnants of the bourgeoisie. Notwithstanding Mao’s declared goals, the Third Chinese Revolution progressed rapidly from the New Democracy – a regime which had the defined goal of a capitalist economy with an extensive nationalised sector, protected the national bourgeoisie, and postponed the transition to socialism to many decades in the future – to the threshold of a workers’ state. In this transition the leading members of the CCP, immersed in their Stalinist, petty bourgeois ideology stood in opposition to the press of events.

It will be argued that the establishment of a workers’ state in China is striking confirmation of the general tendency for revolutions in backward countries to transcend the bourgeois-democratic phase and turn into socialist revolutions. The situation after World War II may have had specific characteristics, such as imperialism being temporarily impotent and the leadership of the mass uprising being in the hands of Stalinists, which gave the Chinese Revolution particular features, but the trend was, inevitably, towards the establishment of a (deformed) workers’ state, or as some describe it “proletarian Bonapartism.”[1]

At the time, those analysing Chinese events had to paint in broad strokes; details available today were unobtainable then. This chapter attempts to fill in those details. It describes and analyses the processes and forces which acted over the transitional period between announcing the PRC and achieving a workers’ state. The nature of the state is at the heart of Marxism and transitional regimes test our ability to apply Marxist theory to contradictory and dynamic phenomena which are important for the analysis of future events and the development of the revolutionary movement.

11.2 The First Stage of the New Democratic Regime (1949-51)

The absence of a mass revolutionary Marxist party meant a petty-bourgeois, Stalinist party was carried to power in China on a mass upsurge so extensive that it swept away the bourgeois government and disintegrated its armed forces. The period immediately following 1949 was a transitional period during which the CCP attempted to form a viable state with the shades of the bourgeoisie, and with the declared aim of maintaining capitalism in China. The New Democracy encouraged capitalists to remain in charge of their factories, apparently secure in their positions. Overseas Chinese businessmen were encouraged to return to help build a capitalist China.

11.2.1 New Democracy and Bureaucratic Capital

In 1947 Mao estimated that the four families had accumulated assets worth US$ twenty thousand million and that under their rule, China had reached a condition of state-monopoly capitalism.[2] This turned out to be a gross under-estimation of the extent of bureaucratic capital.

When the new regime seized bureaucratic capital it found, to its surprise and consternation, that it had four-fifths of the country’s heavy industry (90% of the metallurgical industries, 90% of power generation and electrical equipment, 75% of chemicals and 70% of machine building), about one third of light industry, and control of the transport and communication systems. After seizing Japanese-owned industry it acquired 83% of all foreign capital in China. The New Democratic government found itself employing about half of all factory workers, far more than it had expected or wanted.[3] The CCP was dismayed to inherit such a great share of the economy because it demonstrated just how weak was the national bourgeoisie.

The four families had also been entrenched in the banking system. On capturing Shanghai, the Military Control Committee immediately seized the banks owned by “comprador-feudal state monopoly capitalism” which included the two most important, the Farmers’ Bank of China, and the Central Bank. The regime was again taken by surprise, now being in de facto control of the banking system with no perspective or plan. As a stop-gap measure and to strengthen the national bourgeoisie, the regime attempted to rationalise the banking system by forcing small and medium-sized banks to merge. These banks had to register with the government but were encouraged to continue operating privately.[4]

State ownership of the banks was absolutely essential if the intention was for China to break with capitalism. The banks are an essential instrument of economic policy because control of the allocation of resources must be in the hands of the state in a planned economy. This would be a decisive issue regarding the future of the Chinese revolution. The CCP did appoint cadres to sit on the decision-making bodies in the banks but the government was happy to see the joint state-private banks and the private banks that had existed under the KMT to continue to function for the benefit of the national bourgeoisie.

The banks belonging to the four families were amalgamated into a newly-formed People’s Bank of China with the mergers negotiated jointly with the former senior managers who mostly remained in post. By and large, personnel simply transferred to the People’s Bank. In some cases prominent bankers who had fled China were personally invited by Zhou Enlai to return and take leading positions in the People’s Bank.[5] To attract these people, and other Chinese business men abroad, the CCP hinted at privatising at least some of these banks to strengthen the national bourgeoisie. At first, the New Democracy worked hard to support the private banks, but the need to bring inflation under control required a degree of centralisation that knocked privatisation off the agenda.

Inflation was so bad that the economy was collapsing, many factories and shops were unable to sustain themselves, and those which did, did so by not paying the wages of their employees. Trade was reduced to barter and workers demanded to be paid in kind, usually rice. The corrective measures had to be on a grand scale, co-ordinated and draconian to be effective.

The need to bring inflation under control required the People’s Bank of China to tightly regulate credit and foreign currency exchange. During 1951-52, private banks were progressively rationalised, combined into a small number of joint state-private enterprises and then nationalised. By the third anniversary of the founding of the PRC, banking had become the first sector of the economy to be completely socialised. This extremely important development was not in the direction predicted by Mao, and at odds with the expectations of the New Democracy.

To minimise the effects of inflation and the resulting chaos, representatives of state industries began meeting to draft plans for future development. This was the first step to an integrated plan for the whole economy. For example, to avoid widespread hunger and profiteering, it was found necessary to set up state trading companies which monopolised both retail and wholesale trade in such basic essentials as food and farm produce. These functioned through fixed price state stores and co-operatives which, by August 1950, had 20 million members.[6]

The Party had promised to boost the growth of private capitalism and at first was as good as its word, but it had relatively few native capitalists to work with because businesses of any size had either been taken over by one or other of the four families or had fled with Chiang. Bourgeois property generally was left untouched, given protection, and its growth artificially bolstered. During this phase private businesses could depend on the state for raw materials, distribution channels, and a ready market. Representatives of the bourgeoisie were placed in prestigious and public positions, and even though they may have had no real power they were able to influence the regime because the state wanted their opinions and listened to them. The strength and importance of the national bourgeoisie was artificially and deliberately exaggerated.[7]

Because the national bourgeoisie were so weak on the ground, the New Democracy made a feature of encouraging over seven million small retailers and self-employed artisans to continue their operations. The forcible confiscation of the property of the self-employed taken by the Stalinist regime in Russia was a bureaucratic and short-sighted course of action. Forcing such people into state-controlled co-operatives was not an indication of a workers’ state but the action of a bureaucratic regime. Both Lenin and Trotsky had been against compulsory confiscation of the property of artisans and shopkeepers.

11.2.2 New Democracy and Workers’ Democracy

For the proletariat, political rights such as freedom of assembly, association, speech, and to strike, were strictly limited. Free, democratic workers’ Soviets, or factory councils, are the mechanism by which the masses assess and impose their will on the parties that claim to represent them, and so were completely forbidden. To justify this approach Lo Fu developed the novel argument that the Bolsheviks came to power against the Soviets – any other interpretation was deemed ‘Trotskyist’.[8]

A handful of workers held governmental posts (very few in senior positions) but these were appointed – the working masses had no right to freely elect their own representatives. Workers were hailed as the masters by this regime, but in reality they were as disenfranchised as workers in the Soviet Union under Stalin. Workers’ democracy is a key issue for revolutionary Marxists because without genuine workers’ democracy it is impossible to create a healthy workers’ state “under the leadership of the proletariat.”[9]

Nevertheless, the New Democracy did give workers significant protection from the worst excesses of exploitation. This was of real substance in the treaty ports where the imperialists had carried out their business with little concern for the laws of China or their Chinese employees. The PLA took control in quick succession of Nanjing, Hangchow, Wuhan, and then Shanghai. Foreign companies now had to abide by Chinese employment law and regulations; firms had to hire as permanent, their casual and temporary staff, and pay their workers in rice to beat inflation. However, while foreign companies now faced the same financial burden as Chinese companies, “there was little that was specifically socialist in the policies pursued by the CCP in the early years of the PRC.”[10]

As late as August 1950, the Liberation Daily was promising foreign companies that they could continue operations in China and would be protected. However, without their privileges the foreign firms found it hard to compete and gradually they reduced their levels of activity. The UN embargo imposed during the Korean War reduced foreign trade to barter and meant it was closely controlled by the state. With the Three-Antis and Five-Antis Campaigns (see below), foreign firms effectively withdrew from China.

Far from smashing the old KMT state machine, the New Democracy absorbed important sections of it. Later, in 1952 – three years after the assumption of power, the PRC ruefully reported: “the People’s government adopted a policy of taking over all the personnel in the former Kuomintang government offices and educational institutions when the reactionary rule of the Kuomintang collapsed.”[11] This degree of presence in the state structure meant that the measures taken by the New Democracy to support capitalist initiatives struck a natural resonance and became amplified.

During the three years of recovery the number of private industrial enterprises increased from 123,000 to 150,000; most of these were small businesses employing fewer than 10 persons but a number of larger factories producing consumer goods did thrive. The size of the private industrial labour force grew from 1.6 to 2.2 million workers. The number of businessmen in major cities had increased by a quarter by the end of 1951 and in that year the average rate of profit was a remarkable 29%.[12] One Hong Kong business journal concluded: “The new regime has so far brought prosperous living conditions to all and sundry; the bankers and traders have no reason to complain, and, in fact, no substantial complaints are ever heard. Private trade is doing well and profits are high.”[13] These developments had little independent substance and depended on the goodwill of the CCP, but with hindsight, it is clear that with continuing support from the CCP leadership, these small forces could have quickly grown into a real power within the state.

11.2.3 The New Democracy and Agrarian Reform

The Land Reform Law, published in June 1950, soon after the CCP became the new government, was historic in eradicating feudal remnants such, as mentioned above, that women were entitled to own land. But all activities were carried out under tight Party control, were constrained by the CCP’s bureaucratic methods, and did not violate capitalist property relations and the principle of private ownership. The intention was to have 75% of China’s farmland in private small holdings.[14] The CCP permitted the sale, purchase and renting of land and allowed rich peasants to keep their property and use hired labour.

The Bolsheviks had nationalised the land to create an agrarian system which was the most flexible for taking the socialist revolution into the countryside. In doing so, they had demonstrated that a contradiction can exist for some time between a peasant rural economy and state superstructure during a transitional period, that private production on the land (like private ownership of retail trade) was not a decisive factor in determining the class nature of the regime.

However, the huge preponderance of peasants in Chinese society made the changes in land policy good indicators of the direction in which the regime wanted to travel. Not nationalising the land was an important signpost for the direction in which the Mao regime intended to proceed. “Land to the Tiller” was not anti-capitalist and the New Democracy promised a “rich peasant economy” based on the private ownership of land and the continuing, if limited, presence of landlordism.[15] Simultaneously the CCP and PLA were ready to put down independent actions by peasants who wanted a revolutionary policy.

During the civil war (1947) the land policies of the CCP had been formulated to win peasant support against the KMT armies; immediately after the civil war (1950) the CCP was attempting to re-assure the national bourgeoisie that the New Democracy was no serious threat to its existence, and with the Korean War (see below) it was to increase support for the regime and to protect it from bourgeois sabotage.

There is thus, a chronology to the land policy of the CCP, but there are also geographic considerations: (a) the liberated areas and Soviets with over 100 million people where agrarian reform was completed before 1948, according to the Agrarian Reform Law of October 1947; (b) the Yangtse valley and surrounding regions with over 150 million people where land was distributed during 1950-51 according to the Agrarian Reform Law of June 1950; (c) the south-central region of China and the coastal region of eastern China where land reform was completed only at the end of 1952. This latter area contained nearly 100 million people. Given the considerable differences between areas, the implementation and monitoring of the Agrarian Reform Laws was delegated to regional administrations.[16]

In 1949 the advance of the PLA was so rapid that only partial and incomplete peasant associations could be formed before the PLA arrived and took control. There were some attempts at organising non-payment of rent which were tolerated but the CCP emphasis was on not disrupting the harvest, and thus the start of land redistribution was postponed until the autumn of 1950. In the plan for agrarian reform adopted in May 1950, excessive actions by the poor peasants and landless labourers against the landed proprietors and rich peasants were prohibited and special emphasis was given to ‘the gradual execution of land reform’. As stated above, the immediate actions taken by the CCP were to limit rent to no more than 37.5% of the harvest and to lower interest rates to 15% though, as previously, the latter proved almost impossible to enforce.

The Land Law of 1947 had decreed the expropriation of all property of the landlords and the surplus land of the rich peasants (the area of land they owned above that of the typical local middle peasant). The 1950 Law declared that the land of the rich peasants, whether cultivated by members of the family or hired hands or rented out to poor peasants, had to be protected and must not be distributed. This, naturally, led to an outcry from the majority of peasants who saw their peers in the north being given land while they had to wait.

To give the CCP greater control, the land distribution programme was implemented in a specified order: first combat bad gentry, then reduce rent and interest rates, and finally expropriate land. The process took place sequentially village by village so the process was completed in one area before commencing in another. Since, in any given village the process could last many months, land distribution was slow.

The CCP’s policy of protecting rich peasants, often giving them the best and the largest share of the land on the grounds of maximising food production, placed the rich peasants in a superior position in the rural economy. Rich peasants were in the business of loaning money to poor peasants; these activities could now flourish and rapidly did so. Many poor peasants who had been given their share of land were again sinking into poverty often due to debt repayment and a lack of the tools needed for farming. The land reform allowed the buying and selling of land on the open market and poor peasants were selling their land in order to maintain themselves. The rich peasants soon re-emerged as the dominant social factor (e.g. as head of the local Peasants’ Association) controlling increasing areas of land.[17]

11.2.4 The New Democracy and Marriage Reform

In April 1949, the CCP founded the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF) and on 1 May 1950, the PRC enacted a New Marriage Law announced by Mao Zedong personally: “All marriages are to be based on the free consent of men and women.” The Law raised the minimum marriageable age for males to 20 years and for females to 18, it banned marriage by proxy and both parties had to consent to a marriage. Under the slogan “Smash feudal marriage”, Chinese law for the first time granted women the right to divorce their husbands and a right to a share of family property. This represented a dramatic step-change in the position of women and became an important part of land reform.

However, these changes were incomprehensible concepts to many peasants, certainly in the south of China where the CCP had no traditional base and women were considered as less than human, more like a sheep or a cow.[18] Women were encouraged to attend village mass meetings, convened under CCP guidance to decide how to share out confiscated lands. The form was preserved, but the reality was that almost all these women, most of whom had not been outside their homes for years, were terrified of speaking in public and had little effect on the outcomes.

Where cadres of the Women’s Federation persuaded young women to attend and speak out they were usually ignored and occasionally physically assaulted. However, unlike in Jiangxi where the Women’s Associations took direct action to end the physical intimidation, the Federation trod very softly.

Within three years the CCP, bowing to patriarchal pressures and fearful of a bad harvest, had dropped any co-ordinated effort to implement the land rights elements within the Marriage Law. It was argued that giving land to women was unproductive because: women lacked agricultural skills, a large number of women could not work the land because they were crippled having had their feet bound, women had to look after their children so could not spend enough time on the land, and the patriarchal family structure meant many women were unable to turn their legal rights into actual control of the land.[19]

Leader is clear that CCP cadres – at least in southern China – were sympathetic to peasant views which considered women the property of their husbands, and saw the attempts to liberate women as little more than legalised theft.[20] Leader points out that even though the number of divorces under the new law was minimal (less than one twentieth of one percent of marriages) the threat of divorce became a very real weapon for the emancipation of women. This was not presented positively by CCP cadres as a weapon to be used to obtain better treatment within the family but as a serious and severe threat to social stability; as “high treason against the natural order”. It appears that cadres covered up, or even led, criminal activities to terrorise young women who threatened divorce using such slogans as: “A good woman hangs herself, a bad woman seeks divorce.”[21]

By 1953 it is estimated that as many as a quarter of a million women (mostly aged under 25) had committed suicide or been murdered as a result. It can be argued that these women were paying the price for a bureaucratic approach to an age-old problem with very deep roots. The bureaucratic mentality sees issuing an order as resolving the problem, but here substantial preparatory educational work was needed and then strong support for the women affected.

Engels in The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, had predicted that as women became increasingly economically independent, they would be able to abandon the institution of marriage and engage freely in sexual unions based on love. The CCP, however, was vehemently opposed to women engaging in non-marital sexual unions and attempted to ensure that women fulfilled their biological destiny within the family. Party leaders did make public statements encouraging men to share in the division of household chores but at the same time made it clear that the primary responsibility for the well-being of the family, including cooking, making clothes, economising, cleaning and minding children, was that of women:

“Participating in agricultural production is the right and duty of rural women. Taking care of children and dealing with housework, however, is also a responsibility that women cannot reject. This is the special way in which women and men are different.”[22]

The CCP leadership had considered the Marriage Law for at least two years before enacting it and with their experience of similar laws in the liberated areas must have expected a hostile reaction. However, what they had not expected was the outbreak of the Korean War and to avoid any undermining of the support of the peasantry, the Marriage Law was soft-pedalled from at least 1950 and by March 1953 had been effectively abandoned. The bureaucracy undermined the value of the Marriage Law because it needed the family as a prop to the regime, just as had Stalin.

The official statement issued by Zhou Enlai and entitled “Thorough Enforcement of the Marriage Law” was notable because the content was the opposite of the title. Zhou ordered restricting the grounds for divorce and, with the 1st Five Year Plan (FYP) just around the corner, placed responsibility for smashing the feudal family on women’s organisations within a framework of united, reconciled and harmonious families engaged in gainful production.[23]

The 1st FYP would be a contradictory experience for women in China. Official propaganda called on Chinese women to turn to industry, emphasising that joining the paid labour force was essential for their emancipation. But the plan did not specifically address jobs for women, and women tended to be confined to low skilled jobs (on the co-operatives for example, women planted rice seedlings while men drove tractors); despite official policies female unemployment was high and women were often paid less for work of equal value (women formed over half the agricultural labour force but got only 35% of total pay), and on getting home, women were stuck with housework and childcare.

By 1955 it was clear that with the influx of peasant men into the towns there were few jobs for women, and the CCP proposed a new mass line: women were to stay at home, encourage their husbands to work hard, and to manage their homes with “industry and thrift.”[24] The proportion of women in employment fell sharply and those who continued in work were required to perform the same physical labour as men with dramatic consequences for their health and for their children’s care.[25]

11.3 The Korean War

North Korea was a satellite of the USSR and the evidence available indicates Beijing was not informed of, not prepared for, and had little or no part in the decision to launch the attack on South Korea in June 1950. The Korean War was most unwelcome to the PRC: its hold upon China was still not fully secure and it needed peace to carry through its policies for economic reconstruction. The CC meeting in May 1950 had decided upon large-scale demobilisation of the PLA (1.4 million troops) in order to reduce government expenditure and help provide the resources to accelerate the re-building of the country. The war imposed crippling defence costs of between 15% and 18% of the national budget and seriously delayed the advance of the country by taking scarce resources from civil investment and skilled labour from the civil workforce.

When the war broke out, the Chinese had only one army, the 42nd Army of the Fourth Field Corps, stationed along the Yalu river border area but it was there primarily to assist with harvesting. The nearest troops ready for military action were the 9th and 10th Field Corps about 1,000 km away on the eastern coast preparing for the liberation of Taiwan.[26] Initially, the Chinese leaders limited their support to sending, at Kim Il Sung’s request, 14,000 Korean Chinese then serving in the PLA but, at Stalin’s insistence, became progressively more involved.[27]

On 27 June 1950, the United States President, Harry S Truman, ordered direct American air and naval support for South Korea and re-intervened in the Chinese civil war by positioning the 7th Fleet between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan to defend Chiang Kai-shek.

By August 1950, it had become clear that the objective of United Nations’ action was the extinction of the North Korean regime and the forceful reunification of the country under the direct control of American imperialism. Even if Washington did not plan to attack China immediately, it intended to establish and protect a hostile regime on the Korean Peninsula and deploy its troops along the Sino-Korean border to exert military pressure, which would constitute a very grave threat to north-eastern China, the industrial heartland of the country. CCP statements and propaganda made it clear that such a scenario was unacceptable not least because it feared that the South Korean ‘strong man’ Syngman Rhee (supported by General MacArthur), might attempt to annexe parts of South Manchuria with its large Korean population.[28]

Zhou Enlai warned the US that the crossing of the 38th parallel by UN troops “would encounter Chinese resistance.”[29] The Chinese leaders took this course of action with extreme reluctance and only as a last resort, deciding to send in ‘volunteers’ only after US troops had crossed into North Korea and were approaching the Chinese border. The initial Chinese intervention was cautious and limited and not until major engagements in November 1950, was China irrevocably involved in the war.

After the PLA had crossed the Yangtze river in 1949, the US government put China on an export control list. A license was required to export goods for direct military use (always refused) or multipurpose capital goods (approved only when no military use was possible). Immediately after the outbreak of the Korean War, the US required oil companies to stop shipment to China of petroleum products (even today every oil tanker docking in a Chinese port is shadowed by a US Navy warship). Soon after Chinese volunteers entered Korea, on 16 December 1950, the US government froze Chinese assets in American banks and formally prohibited all trade with China. In retaliation the CCP regime seized all American banks and enterprises, including all schools, hospitals, and similar institutions. By the end of 1950, US-China trade, both imports and exports, had virtually stopped.[30] On 15 May 1951, the United Nations imposed its own sanctions on China.

The significance of these events was that they were just the opposite of what Mao had been seeking when he had promised to be a better partner for US imperialism than had the KMT, offering better and more secure investment opportunities for Wall Street.[31] Mao’s regime now became the government most hated by the American imperialists and the hoped-for compromise was postponed to the far distant future.[32]

With the outbreak of the Korean War, the regime undertook a broad mass mobilisation campaign – “Aid Korea, Resist America” – to increase its popularity. The wages of workers in state enterprises were increased and managements were instructed to be more sensitive to workers’ opinions. That said, the executive power over production remained in the hands of the manager appointed by higher echelons. In the private sector, the regime showed greater tolerance towards workers’ struggles and permitted trade unions to engage in ‘legal struggle’ with capitalists to improve living conditions, and oppose wage cuts and the arbitrary firing of workers, on the condition of not fundamentally hampering production.

The number of women recruited into industry jumped, and particularly in light industry; for example, 70% of the workforce in the Peking No. 3 Cotton mill and 80% in the Wusih State Silk Factory were women, though men still formed the overwhelming proportion in heavy industry. There was, generally speaking, a noticeable improvement in the life of the working masses. At the same time demands for increased production as part of the war effort were intensified. The essential rights of the working class in politics – democratic participation and control of government – remained anathema.

To successfully conduct a war, the state must be able to direct the economy according to its needs. The Korean War obliged the Chinese state to extend the public sector control of industry so that by the end of 1952, the state’s total share of national industrial output was two-thirds. The war also imposed much greater centralisation of the economy. Just as imperialist intervention in Russia had accelerated nationalisation of basic industries, so the Korean War increased the pressures pushing China towards a workers’ state.

The PLA, armed, trained and advised by soldiers of the Soviet Army, had defeated a KMT army funded and supported by US imperialism, the very people who were now threatening a back-door invasion of China via the Korean Peninsula. Against the model of economic planning which had lifted Russia out of poverty and backwardness were the threats and fury of the USA. The natural momentum of events was inexorably pushing China in the direction of a workers’ state while Mao, guided by his Stalinist theories, attempted to delay or even reverse the process.

The direction which the regime was actually taking meant an increasing proportion of the national bourgeoisie saw the victory of US imperialism as their last hope and they started to act accordingly. The regime launched a campaign to suppress war criminals, traitors, bureaucratic capitalists, and counter-revolutionaries. Thousands of “vicious local autocrats”, the most reactionary of the landlords and rich peasants, the most corrupt of the KMT bureaucrats inherited from the old regime, and captured KMT agents, were imprisoned and publicly executed, usually after party-sponsored trials attended by huge numbers of people.

This anti-counter revolutionary campaign was widened to include the universities and artistic communities. It began as a discussion of the film The Life of Wu Xun, (an historical figure who considered charitable works more effective than revolutionary activity in bettering the lives of the poor) after a critical editorial was published in the People’s Daily on 20 May 1951. The discussion was soon transformed into a widely publicised ideological reform campaign requiring self-criticisms and public confessions by faculty members, film-makers, artists, writers, and scientists. All were criticised for failing to heed Mao’s dictum that culture and literature must reflect the class interest of the working people (i.e. avoid any criticisms of the Party).

The campaign was extended to include parties represented in the government. As a signal of what was soon to come, a number of rank and file members of the Democratic League were arrested. The Kuomintang Revolutionary Committee was unscathed because it contained Song Qingling. Under the same pretext of suppressing ‘counter-revolutionaries’, the more advanced and discontented elements among the workers and peasants, especially the Trotskyists, were repressed, imprisoned and killed, demonstrating the regime still carried its anti-democratic, Stalinist baggage.[33]

11.4 The Three-Antis and Five-Antis Campaigns (1951-54)

As a result of campaigns carried out between 1951 and 1954, over half a million members would be expelled from the CCP for accepting bribes, being ‘tainted by the class enemies’, lacking commitment or not being up to the job.[34] The campaigns would begin by rooting out elements corrupted by the bourgeoisie but by their end, would be against the bourgeoisie as a class. Those foreign firms remaining in China after the US and UN embargoes would be subject to Three-Antis and Five-Antis Campaigns and, by early 1952, almost all foreign firms had ceased operations and withdrawn from China.[35]

11.4.1 The Three-Antis Campaign

Before the anti-counter revolutionary campaign was over, Mao had launched two new major campaigns. The first was at the end of 1951; the Three-Antis Campaign (anti-corruption, anti-waste, and anti-bureaucratism) was meant to identify corruption of urban cadres, particularly those in business administration dealing with private enterprise. This began as the Chinese advance in Korea was halted and the war settled down to a bloody slog. The CCP could no longer close its eyes to an extremely serious situation that was causing enormous financial and economic losses to the various state institutions and was arousing widespread discontent, especially amongst industrial workers in the ranks of the Party. Weeding out corruption and inefficiency in the government apparatus had become an urgent task.[36]

A news report in August 1950 had claimed that corrupt cadres had misappropriated 450,000 tons of grain and then flaunted their ill-gotten gains in shows of ‘arrogance and vanity’. A subsequent series of articles in the New China Press and Peoples’ Journal in early 1951, revealed that the level and extent of corruption was stupendous. In central government alone the corruption was valued at 73 billion yuan at a time when the annual salary of a civil servant could be as little as 1,000 yuan.[37] The situation in the regions was, apparently, much worse! If this level of corruption was attained within just two years, what did the future hold?

Corrupt cadres fattened themselves by pilfering state funds and spending public monies on luxurious lifestyles. They were selling state resources, such as raw materials at cut prices, rubber stamping increased production costs to assure additional profits to the capitalists. The capitalists, it appears, did not hesitate to repay the favours. Corruption, waste, and bureaucracy were becoming entrenched in the state apparatus, the army, mass organisations and, in particular, in the industrial and commercial sectors. A general malaise was appearing within the CCP. In some rural districts, CCP members had become the foci of commerce, land purchase, and usury to the extent that they were asking to be allowed to quit the Party to pursue careers as capitalist entrepreneurs. It was claimed that in some areas these same CCP members had bought up as much as 20% of the land allocated to poor peasants.[38]

The anti-corruption campaign began in the north east of China where CCP control over society was most established but also because in Manchuria the Korean War had provided the greatest opportunities for the generation of a new layer of capitalists and the brazen bribery of administrative officials. Capitalist influences undermined the behaviour of cadres and were amplified because those cadres were not freely elected, not subject to criticism from the workers and peasants, and not subject to democratic control and recall. Used to abusing their authority, receiving higher wages, special treatment and privileges, they considered it their right to surround themselves with ever greater luxury; they were easily corrupted and debased because the bureaucratic state apparatus already had a culture of privileges and perks.

For the millions of KMT bureaucrats with their sleazy practices, corruption had long been a way of life. These people were now well-placed to take advantage of the opportunist policy of class collaboration which feted and praised the national bourgeoisie as partners in the New Democratic economy, just as the shortages created by the Korean War generated ideal conditions for crooked dealings. What the Three-Antis Campaign demonstrated was that the protected capitalist sector had an effect out of all proportion to its size.

To effectively eliminate such practices required workers’ democracy. This was not possible under the Mao regime, but the CCP did have extensive experience of initiating and overseeing mass campaigns which used women’s and youth organisations, professional bodies, and trade unions to mobilise the population in support of issues the government deemed worthy. These techniques were used with the Three-Antis Campaign with the addition that public criticisms of local officials who had blatantly taken bribes or openly used their positions for personal aggrandisement, were encouraged. In this way the campaign had the beneficial effect of appeasing discontent in the Party ranks.

This campaign was not intended to change the bureaucratic nature of the CCP and so could not eliminate opportunism, corruption or waste as was demonstrated when the excesses of the party tops were left untouched.[39] The CCP leadership was obliged to expel obviously rotten cadres and to attack certain bourgeois elements because, embroiled in a war with US imperialism it could not tolerate incompetent and politically unreliable public officials and an inefficient, ill-disciplined, and unresponsive bureaucratic system.

The rapid corruption and moral degeneration of the CCP revealed the bankruptcy of the New Democracy. Representatives of a world system that was much more technologically advanced, the national bourgeoisie were much more corrosive than either their numbers or the value of their products would imply. The CCP simply failed to understand the nature of the national bourgeoisie, failed to understand why the national bourgeoisie turned their backs on what was so obviously the rational way forward for China. On 15 January 1952, the editorial of the Tientsin Journal plaintively pleaded: “The orientation of the popular democratic front has not changed … we still hope the bourgeoisie will conscientiously accomplish their own reform to conduct themselves peacefully in the new democracy.” The Maoist regime was increasingly being faced with having to end the New Democracy or move to the full restoration of the bourgeoisie.


11.4.2 The Five-Antis Campaign

During 1951, it became clear that the output in many sectors of the economy would soon reach the pre-1949 peak. This gave the Chinese bourgeoisie greater confidence and they became bolder in defending their interests against the state and in intervening in the state machine through bribery and corruption. As the economy began to expand, private business based in the light industries expanded most rapidly and attempted to acquire a larger share of scarce raw materials, legally (by paying up to 40% more than the state) or through the black market (bribery). Skilled labour moved from the state sector to private firms able to pay more because of their high profits. These boom conditions for the private sector undermined government control of the economy.

No sooner was the Three-Antis Campaign underway than Mao launched the Five-Antis Campaign (anti-bribery, anti-tax evasion, anti-fraud, anti-embezzlement, and anti-leakage of state secrets) in January 1952. This programme complemented the Three-Antis Campaign and was aimed at eliminating corrupt practices by businessmen and industrialists. In reality, the Mao regime could not allow a class whose objective interests lay in the victory of the US to retain control over light industry and much of agriculture. Wholesale expropriation – in whatever form it took – would be an inevitable result of the Korean War.

In Shanghai alone, 15,000 inspectors were trained to investigate their employers’ business affairs for tax evasion and other corrupt practices. The CCP encouraged business people to confess or denounce one another (some big companies made thousands of voluntary confessions to try to protect themselves); citizens were invited to write letters denouncing businesses (about 200,000 letters a month were received); friends and family were encouraged to join in. The campaign had loudspeakers on every street corner broadcasting denunciations of local recalcitrants, wall newspapers carried reports of the misconduct and offences of businessmen, in the streets there were demonstrations by the employees of companies denouncing the crimes of their employers, and factory owners would be continuously besieged in their offices by workers demanding they admit and recant their crimes.

The intention was that the business leaders identified by the Five-Antis Campaign should be humiliated and intimidated, should go through public criticism sessions, be made to confess their crimes, and forced to pay large fines (the owner of Dahua copper company confessed to having illegally obtained 50 million yuan but his employees continued to criticise him until he re-confessed to having obtained 2 billion yuan). Fines were heavy and some offenders were sent to labour camps.

In its early stages, the campaign was limited to an assertion of CCP control of society from bottom to the top. To save face, official statements presented the struggle as being against individual ‘mangy sheep’ of the bourgeoisie. However, in the course of this campaign the Party uncovered well-organised attempts by important businessmen and industrialists to corrupt Party and government officials. Before it ended the Five-Antis Campaign would become an all-out war against the bourgeoisie as a whole.[40]

The People’s China editorial of 15 March 1952 complained: “as (the capitalist) enterprises have developed and begun to flourish the bourgeoisie has become less inclined to conform to the Common Programme and obey governmental regulations.” Capitalists were reported as having set up secret monopolies to control supplies to the state or to state enterprises; the Chinese bourgeoisie were using “the same lamentable methods as are habitually used by big capitalists in the capitalist states.” It was becoming clear that the national capitalists collaborated with the New Democracy only out of immediate necessity and not out of idealism or belief in the Common Programme. The greater the success of Mao’s policy of stabilising and enriching private enterprise, the bolder and more determined it became in defence of its own interests against those of the state. The regime was having its eyes opened by the Korean War and realising that the national bourgeoisie were not willing allies in the New Democracy, and could become a fifth column.

Chen Po-ta (CC member) presented an in-depth analysis of the situation in Pravda (23 April 1952):

“Spurred by their hunger for profit … (the capitalists) placed their agents in our state institutions and our public organizations … hired employees of the state and public bodies as their agents … did not give up their hope of conquering power bit by bit in the PRC … the bourgeoisie is striving to push China onto the road to capitalism.”[41]

During 1952 the CC, in its majority, became convinced of the need to push the private sector into mixed public-private enterprises with the government having the determining role. Private operations had accounted for three quarters of wholesale trade in 1950, but by 1953 their share had shrunk to less than a third. As a result of the Five-Antis Campaign there was a considerable state presence in the remaining private sector through joint companies.[42]

Once the civil war was over the New Democracy was supposed to provide a peaceful (even if slow) transition to socialism. The reality, as found in the Five-Antis Campaign was that the national bourgeoisie were sabotaging the regime and the use of force was widely used to compel the largest private corporations to convert into joint private-state enterprises, and the smallest factory owners and merchants to give up their capital assets. Many were grateful to have escaped with their lives, some did not.[43]

It has long been accepted by Marxists that the destruction of capitalism, e.g. the ending of private property in the means of production and the introduction of state-owned property, can take place only as a result of the revolutionary mobilisation of the masses. Here the mass mobilisations deviated markedly from the ideal norms and occurred under the watchful eye of the PLA, under the guidance of a Stalinist Party. The similarities with Eastern Europe are obvious.[44] In China, to maintain technical continuity, and to gain a degree of assent, the previous owners were often offered managerial positions in the joint private-state enterprises so they could continue to contribute to the state economy, and previous shareholders were compensated with a pension guaranteed for seven years at 5% per annum of their share of the business. Such arrangements are matters of convenience not of principle, but the net effect was a dramatic contraction in the private sector.

The presentation of these events was a problem for Mao and the CCP. Officially the New Democracy was a lengthy preparatory stage during which Chinese society would be made ready for launching socialism. In true Orwellian manner, the texts were re-written to match actual events; this is why so many of Mao’s works were re-published in 1951. Now, New Democracy was presented as a rapid transition to socialism. Cohen gives an interesting but disturbing picture of the public self-rectification that had to be undertaken by many, particularly academics and students, who had studied On New Democracy, thought they had understood it well, had even been given responsibility for lecturing on it, but now found they had not understood it at all.[45]

It is to be expected that the CCP presents the Third Chinese Revolution as having followed the course outlined by Mao. The expectation was that the New Democracy would last for scores of years, but the laws of historic development meant there were only two years between October 1949 and the first moves against the national bourgeoisie in the Three-Antis and Five-Antis Campaigns. In reality it would have been difficult to move against the national bourgeoisie any sooner. Being a bureaucracy, the CCP over-reacted and even small retailers were herded into co-operatives under Party control. Lenin, of course, had argued that such small enterprises should be taken over by the state only when the individual retailers themselves wanted it.

11.4.3 Agricultural Policy and the Korean War

With the outbreak of the Korean War the activities of all reactionary elements revived, and anti-communist guerrillas re-appeared across southern China. These successfully incited not only landlords but also many poor peasants and landless labourers (angry at receiving little or nothing from the land reforms) to acts of open rebellion such as refusal to pay taxes, forming groups to plunder public food banks, harassing local officials, etc. So bad did the situation become in some counties that the Yangtze Daily (published in Hankou) concluded there was a danger of the peasants following KMT agents and country autocrats rather than the CCP and the People’s Government. Mandel claimed that in many counties in the south a veritable civil war was raging between thousands of bandits mobilised by KMT agents and supported by local landlords against poor peasant associations organised by the CCP.[46]

The CCP was forced to adopt a more conciliatory line towards the poor peasants and a less conciliatory attitude towards the remaining landlords who were – of course – closely inter-linked with the national bourgeoisie. The “Aid Korea, Resist America” campaign (1951-52) won considerable support from the peasant masses because re-distribution of landlords’ excess lands was accelerated and extended southwards and throughout China, until by the end of 1952 it had been largely completed. In parallel with Party policy in the urban areas, there was increased emphasis on the mobilisation of poor peasants and landless labourers to root out landlordism and right-opportunist deviations in the land reform movement. These activities were meant to be closely supervised by Party cadres but the poor peasants and landless labourers often took the law into their own hands to effect a fuller and fairer distribution. In the face of the Korean War, the CCP leadership generally acquiesced to, and even allowed cadres to lead a number of these actions but without formally changing regime policy.[47]

The CCP skilfully used this situation to initiate the first step towards co-operativisation, and towards the state taking greater control of agriculture to provide the necessary resources for industrialisation. But the requirement not to disturb food production imposed a major constraint on the rate of rural change. In December 1951, the CC of the CCP, in a move that was justified as helping poor peasants and improving production, proposed voluntary mutual-aid teams. This was a form of basic co-operation where individual farmers worked together on the separate land holdings and then shared the produce according to the amount of labour and farming tools they contributed. This meant the rich peasants who possessed tools such as hoes and carts got the larger portion of the crops, but the scheme increased overall production so everyone benefited. Such teams had been tested in the liberated areas during and after the Sino-Japanese War and found to significantly increase production. The intention was to have 80-90% of all peasants organised in mutual aid teams by 1955.[48]

11.5 The End of the New Democracy

The dynamic of class contradictions on an international scale revealed the core weakness in the theory of socialism in one country, forcing Mao to abandon his New Democracy step by step. An economic blockade had obliged the CCP to carry out the seizure of US property in China, and destroyed the hoped-for collaboration. The Korean War and direct threat of imperialist invasion together with their growing strength in the economy had given sections of the national bourgeoisie sufficient confidence to mount a campaign of economic sabotage, to corrupt CCP members, and to launch other anti-revolutionary activities. In the countryside, the rich peasants were feeling their strength and demanding to be allowed to get on with the job of food production, i.e. to grow into landlords.

Industrial output had grown rapidly after 1949, by roughly a fifth to a quarter each year and it soon became clear that a major factor limiting expansion was the disparity in growth between the different sectors of the economy; insufficient raw materials, and inadequate power supplies and transport facilities. This on its own pointed to the need for greater co-ordination and planning. Under these pressures and threats, the CCP was forced to take a big step forward by abandoning the reactionary illusions of New Democracy and adopting a series of objectively revolutionary measures. These were reactions, taken for self-preservation without any real understanding of the motor forces driving events.

In the exceptional circumstances following WWII the class-collaborationist stance of the CCP had not stopped Mao coming to power. But once in power the official line of the CCP meant that the New Democracy was at odds with what was actually happening. The national bourgeoisie was not rationally assessing what was best for China and acting accordingly; it was acting in its own interests. Even though it represented the smaller part of the economy it was successfully corrupting the CCP and the state machine. In only three years it had shown it could soon grow into a real threat to the interests of the bureaucracy. Determined to protect their newfound privileges and power, the bureaucracy made a series of empirical adaptations to events before accepting that the New Democracy was irreversibly breaking down.

At the beginning of 1953, the CCP proclaimed that the bourgeois-democratic phase of the revolution was passing and its socialist phase was beginning. With its 1st FYP (1953-1957) for economic construction and industrialisation, the CCP abandoned the New Democracy and replaced it with the policy of state and private co-operation, which aimed at the abolition of bourgeois property and the beginning of socialist construction. On 1 October 1953, the fourth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic, the government proclaimed “the general line for the transition to socialism” and finally buried the New Democracy. Despite the prominence of the New Democracy in formal Maoist theory, and its promise of a lengthy stage of capitalist development, the bourgeois phase of China’s post-revolutionary history was abruptly terminated after just four years.[49]

Cohen describes the abruptness of the change in Party line that took place in mid-1953 when suddenly the “transition to socialism” was at hand in China. He says that in a four-month period (July to October), the perspective that the New Democracy was an economy in which the private sector could flourish, was ditched and replaced by the perspective that capitalism could and should be crowded out quickly. Then in October 1953, an intense national campaign was launched. This lasted about two and half years until by 1955/6 there had been a complete transformation with even small businesses becoming state enterprises.[50]

By 1956, approximately two-thirds of all modern industrial enterprises were directly state-owned, and the remaining one-third was under joint public-private ownership. No privately-owned firms remained. In true Stalinist fashion the change was all-encompassing, even micro-scale industries were organised into co-operatives which accounted for just over 90% of all handicraft workers.

In 1954 there was widespread discussion on the new state constitution to supersede the Common Programme and which would bring the New Democracy phase of China’s development to a formal end. The constitution proposed was based on the Soviet constitution established by Stalin in 1936 with integration of party and state and a highly centralised structure.[51] Naturally, the discussion about and around the constitution, and the nature of the regime, was taken up by intellectuals who tended to favour more freedoms rather than less. The CCP moved quickly to curb dissent by launching an attack on the well-known author and Party member Hu Feng for criticising the harsher aspects of Party control of art and literature. Hu Feng was arrested in 1955 and imprisoned as a counter-revolutionary. The campaign soon extended its scope and over 190,000 individuals made ‘voluntary’ confessions to avoid public humiliation or worse. This can be seen as setting the stage for the Party’s dealings with intellectuals and would lead to the Hundred Flowers in May-June 1957 (see Chapter 13).

11.6 Can the Petty-Bourgeois be Revolutionary?

Here is the place to answer the challenge posed by Pierre Rousset who has written extensively on political developments in Asia, that a party which takes power in a revolution that leads to a workers’ state cannot be Stalinist.[52] Rousset is not defending Marxism, quite the opposite! Rousset had previously made an overly positive assessment of the strength and prospects of Stalinism. He saw Mao as a genuine revolutionary who had been able to drag the CCP behind him and create a Chinese workers’ state. Thus, he was determined to paint a revolutionary face on Mao and prettify Maoism.

The source of the Chinese Revolution did not lie in the personality of Mao Zedong but in the very deep crisis of capitalism that occurred on a world scale at the end of WWII, and the contradictory character of petty-bourgeois political parties. It is one thing to say the theory of permanent revolution had found confirmation in China where the CCP was compelled to undertake socialist measures to resolve the bourgeois tasks of national independence and freedom from landlordism; it was quite another to suggest Mao Zedong was acting as a Trotskyist, even if as an ‘unconscious Trotskyist’.[53]

Rousset suggests that to argue that a non-socialist, petty-bourgeois party can, under certain exceptional circumstances, overturn capitalism revises Marxism. Rousset might appear to be on strong ground since in 1922, the 4th World Congress of the Communist International had considered the case of a petty-bourgeois government brought to power by a revolutionary upsurge and decided that it would be unlikely to progress to the dictatorship of the proletariat. However, very different conditions existed in 1949 than in 1922. Imperialism had been seriously weakened and China was rotten ripe for revolution.

Marx described and explained that even though a petty-bourgeois party was a contradictory phenomenon it could still be revolutionary, for example in his analysis of the Paris Commune, Marx reported that the Alliance Républicaine des Départements – a political association of petty-bourgeois representatives – called on the people throughout the country to fight against the Versailles government and the monarchist National Assembly and to support the Commune.[54] Petty-bourgeois formations were, and are, quite prepared to use revolutionary means but the contradictory nature of their goals (to harmonise the interests of capital and labour) meant that in the era of the growth of capitalism, such groups invariably ended on the side of the bourgeoisie.

But they are also pulled in the opposite direction, especially in the era of the decay of capitalism. Could a petty-bourgois grouping having taken power move towards a workers’ state? Based on his experiences in Russia and his analysis of unfolding events, Trotsky concluded:

“one cannot categorically deny in advance the theoretical possibility that, under the influence of completely exceptional circumstances (war, defeat, financial crash, mass revolutionary pressure, etc.), the petty bourgeois parties, including the Stalinists, may go further than they wish along the road to a break with the bourgeoisie. …. one thing is not to be doubted: even if this highly improbable variant somewhere at some time becomes a reality … it would represent merely a short episode on the road to the actual dictatorship of the proletariat.”[55]

In China the pre-conditions for such a petty-bourgeois group coming to power was a mass upheaval so extensive that the bourgeois government and its armies were swept away. It would be expected that the resulting petty-bourgeois government, even in a Stalinist form, would carry through substantial reforms of the system but, at a crucial point, would have to choose between deepening the revolution or conceding power to the bourgeoisie.

What were the exceptional circumstances that pushed the Mao regime to make the final decision to become a workers’ state? Ten reasons spring to mind, though there may be more.

  • Capitalist development in China had reached an impasse. China was over-ripe for revolution and this had been confirmed by the implosion of the KMT and the collapse of its armies.
  • The initial impetus for the course of events lay not with Mao but with Chiang Kai-shek’s refusal to accept the advice of US imperialism or listen to the pleas of the CCP, and his decision to launch his armies against the PLA in a fight to the death.
  • Imperialism was temporarily paralysed.
  • There was no credible governmental alternative to the Mao regime and this political vacuum permitted the entrenchment of a petty-bourgeois Stalinist government.
  • The CCP was determined to seize bureaucratic capital, but the assets of the four families were so huge that the state took effective control of heavy industry, the banks, communications, and transport. The CCP was unable to privatise these holdings because the collapse of society had been so severe that to end famine, bring inflation under control and get the economy moving again, required extensive state intervention and economic measures that were socialist in principle.
  • The capitalist elements in the New Democratic government had little independent weight, no mass support, and could be tolerated. When these bourgeois elements became a hindrance they were rapidly and easily eliminated, although to preserve the appearance of continuity these parties remain in government even today!
  • The historic links between the Chinese and Russian Communist Parties, the Soviet Union’s incredible economic progress, and the aid supplied by the Soviet Union meant that most Party members in China saw a Soviet style, planned economy as the natural outcome of their efforts.
  • The entire membership of the CCP from Mao down genuinely wanted social reform for the betterment of the lives of peasants and workers. This would have been complemented by pressure from the peasant masses (including many in the PLA) to carry through the land reform rapidly and in a revolutionary way. Because of the links between the landlords and the national bourgeoisie this mass pressure pushed the regime in the direction of a workers’ state.
  • Under pressure from imperialism (the Marshall Plan), Stalin had swung left and overthrown the coalition regimes in Eastern Europe. This short-lived left turn meant that the ‘highly improbable variant’ of transition to workers’ states under petty-bourgeois leadership, actually took place in a number of countries after WWII. China was part of this international development.
  • The CCP had a twenty-year history of being the sole governing body in extensive areas of China (notwithstanding the three-threes arrangement). In October 1949, the business of running a government was not a new venture for the Maoists; rather it was the continuation of what they had been practising for years. When considering annexation of territories by the USSR Trotsky wrote: “… the Moscow government will carry through the expropriation of the large land-owners and stratification of the means of production … not because the bureaucracy remains true to the socialist program but because it is neither desirous nor capable of sharing the power, and the privileges the latter entails, with the old ruling classes …..”[56] While prepared to give the appearance of sharing power with an enfeebled national bourgeoisie, the Maoists were not prepared to accept counter-revolutionary activities that could lead to the end of their power and privileges.

The debate concerning whether the petty-bourgeois can be revolutionary was decided once and for all by the Cuban Revolution. This was made by a party that at first did not even claim to be socialist and finally dissipated any mystification on the character of these revolutionary upheavals. The key is in the contradictory character of petty-bourgeois political groups and the degree of decay and corruption of capitalism.

Even while making the final moves towards a workers’ state in China the Stalinist framework of class-collaboration (epitomised in the slogan “Peaceful coexistence”), the theory of socialism in one country, revolution by stages, bureaucratic party structure and administrative methods, the systematic denial of Soviet democracy, and limitation of workers’ rights remained constant factors in the Mao regime.

11.7 Summary

In China in 1949 a Stalinist petty-bourgois party was the sole effective force in the government, and the power of the state (bodies of armed men, etc.) was in its hands. It had reached this position not because of a principled conscious decision to fight its own bourgeoisie, but because its own bourgeoisie (the KMT) collapsed, rotten to the core. Only when threatened by imperialism did Mao end his attempt to balance between the national bourgeoisie and the masses. Mao broke with his stated programme and accepted the overturn of capitalist property relations but not to the extent of allowing the emergence of independent organisations of workers’ democracy. The privileged bureaucratic caste that had consolidated in the CCP continued to exclude the masses from political decision-making.

The CCP had taken power through peasant armies rather than a proletarian uprising. Its declared policy was to delay forming a proletarian dictatorship because such a development clashed with the theory of stages and the New Democracy. Mao artificially delayed the revolutionary progress, stifled the initiatives of the masses, and for a time, made the CCP a prop for the national bourgeoisie.

The pressures on the PRC to solve its immediate problems – inflation, feeding and housing the population, replacing industries destroyed or stolen during the war, launching new industries, making good dams, canals and irrigation systems on a mass scale – all pushed the regime in the direction of measures which were socialist in principle. By 1951, within government ministries, planning and collaboration were taking place spontaneously as the only realistic means of achieving the stated goals of the regime.

Initially Mao did his best to resist the trend but the Korean War and the imperialist embargo on trade with China finally resolved the contradictions between the declared aims of the government and what was actually happening. The CCP was forced to face up to the corrosive effect of bourgeois control of light industry and medium and small banks. Bourgeois corruption of the state and Party reached an intolerable level and there was active sabotage of economic plans as the factory owners formed their own, secret cartels to manipulate supplies and prices. The regime responded with two mass campaigns – the Three-Antis and the Five-Antis – which effectively ended the national bourgeoisie as significant factors in industry or finance.

The central tasks of the revolution in colonial and semi-colonial countries are national unification and independence (overthrow the imperialist yoke) and the agrarian revolution (liquidation of feudal heritages). These two tasks are interlinked and the theory of the permanent revolution predicts that in the era of imperialism they can be fully realised only with the dictatorship of the proletariat.[57]


[1] Grant, T. The Unbroken Thread, Fortress Books, p282-288 and 345.

[2] Mao Zedong, The Present Situation and our Tasks, Dec. 1947, w.m.org.

[3] Harris, N. The Mandate of Heaven, 1978, Quartet Books.

[4] Zhaojin Ji, A History of Modern Shanghai Banking, East Gate Books, 2003, p243.

[5] Lee Tak, Chinese Bankers … the Case of Chen Guangfu, Univ. of Hong Kong, jds.cass.cn.

[6] Mandel, E. The Third Chinese Revolution Part II, 1950, w.m.org.

[7] Hsieh Yueh, Mao Tse-tung’s “Revolution”, Report on Chinese Stalinism, 1949, www,marxists.org.

[8] Wales, N. Why the Chinese Communists Support the United Front: An Interview with Lo Fu, Pacific Affairs, 1938, 11(3)311-322.

[9] Mao Zedong, The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party, 1951 edition, w.m.org.

[10] Thompson, T. China’s Nationalisation of Foreign Firms 1949-57. Univ. of Maryland, 1979.

[11] Labour Laws and Regulations of the People’s Republic of China, 1956, p65.

[12] Harris, Op. cit.

[13] Far Eastern Economic Review, 26 January 1950.

[14] Duncan, J. and Li, P. Women and Land Tenure in China, 2001, Rural Development Institute.

[15] Mao Zedong, New Democracy, 1940, w.m.org.

[16] Twitchett, D. and Fairbank, J. (eds) Cambridge History of China, CUP, 1987, Vol.14, p81.

[17] Ibid, p54.

[18] Kazuku Ono, Chinese Women in a Century of Revolution, Stanford, U.P., 1989, p179.

[19] Duncan, and Li, Op. cit.

[20] Leader, S, The Emancipation of Chinese Women, World Politics, 1973 26(1) 55-79.

[21] Kazuku Ono, Op. cit. p180.

[22] People’s Daily, 16 May 1956, quoted in Manning, K. Marxist Maternalism … The China Review, 2005, 5(1) 81-108.

[23] Leader, Op. cit.

[24] People’s Daily, editorial, Mobilize all Women to Build up the Country and Manage Family Affairs by Industry and Thrift September 9, 1957.

[25] Leader, Op. cit.

[26] Hao Yufan and Zhai Zhihai, China’s Decision to Enter the Korean War, The China Quarterly, No. 121, 1990, p94-115.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Whiting, A. China Crosses The Yalu: The Decision to Enter the Korean War. Macmillan, 1960.

[30] Kailai Huang, American Business and the China trade Embargo in the 1950s, 2001, Economic and Business History.

[31] Service, J. Lost Chance in China, Random House, 1975, p306-07.

[32] Thompson, Op. cit.

[33] Peng Shuzi, Report on the Chinese Situation, Education for Socialists, SWP, 1952.

[34] Twitchett and Fairbank, Op. cit. p94.

[35] Thompson, Op. cit.

[36] Fairbank, J. The Great Chinese Revolution 1800-1985, Harper Perennial, 1987, p277 et seq.

[37] Kwong, J. The Political Economy of Corruption in China, 1997, Sharpe, p6.

[38] Peng Shuzi, The Causes of the Victory of the Chinese Communist Party over Chiang Kai-Shek, Feb., 1952, w.m.org.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Peng Shuzi, Report … Op. cit.

[41] Mandel, E. Report to 11th Plenum IEC of the FI, May 1952, w.m.org.

[42] Harris, Op. cit.

[43] Cohen, A. The Communism of Mao Tse-tung. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1966, p113.

[44] Hansen, J. The Problem of Eastern Europe, w.m.org.

[45] Cohen, Op. cit.

[46] Mandel, Report to 11th Plenum … Op. cit.

[47] Chatham House, From Land Reform to Communes in China, The World Today, 1959, 15(3)124-133.

[48] Li, H. Village China Under Socialism and Reform, Stanford U.P., 2009, p24.

[49] Meisner, M. Mao’s China and After, The Free Press, 1999, p108.

[50] Cohen, Op. cit. p116-121.

[51] Fairbank, Op. cit., p281.

[52] Rousset, P. The Chinese Revolution, International Institute for Research and Education Number 3.

[53] Grant, Op. cit. p279.

[54] Marx, K. The Civil War in France, Part III, 1871, w.m.org.

[55] Trotsky, L. The Transitional Programme, 1938, w.m.org.

[56] Trotsky, L. In Defence of Marxism, 1938, w.m.org.

[57] Trotsky, L. The Permanent Revolution, Red Letter Press, p289.